Dynamic Learning Maps Assessment

Dynamic Learning Maps Assessment Project LogoThe Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) project is guided by the core belief that all students should have access to challenging grade-level content. The new DLM alternate assessment system will let students with significant cognitive disabilities show what they know in ways that traditional multiple-choice tests cannot.

The DLM system is designed to map a student’s learning throughout the year. The system will use items and tasks that are embedded in day-to-day instruction that are aligned to the common core standards. In this way, testing happens as part of instruction, which both informs teaching and benefits students. An end of the year assessment will be created for states that want to include a summative test in addition to the instructionally embedded system.

What are the Common Core Essential Elements?

These K-12 alternate achievement standards are aligned with college and work expectations, include rigorous content and application, and are internationally benchmarked. For all students to be career and college ready, including students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, educators should include both the content and the reading and writing skills that students need to demonstrate learning in the other disciplinary areas. All students, including students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, deserve and have a right to a quality educational experience. This right includes, to the maximum extent possible, the opportunity to be involved in and meet the same challenging expectations that have been established for all students. These alternate achievement standards are called the Illinois Common Core Essential Elements (CCEEs) in English Language Arts and Mathematics. The CCEEs satisfy the requirement of the U.S. Department of Education that Illinois have alternate achievement standards for its students with the most significant cognitive disabilities that are clearly linked to grade-level academic content standards, promote access to the general curriculum and reflect professional judgment of the highest expectation possible.

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What is Dynamic Learning Map?

A learning map is a network of sequenced learning targets. Often, we think of learning as one skill building on another single skill. A dynamic learning map, by comparison, shows a learning landscape in which multiple skills are related to many other skills. Dynamic learning maps™ not only show the relationships between skills but also show multiple learning pathways. Instead of assuming that all children learn a skill in the same way, allowing for multiple pathways recognizes that there are alternate ways to learn the same skill. By using dynamic learning maps™ as the basis for assessments, the DLM™ system will give teachers a clearer view of each student's knowledge. First, it shows where a student is starting. It also shows the main route, which is the shortest, most direct way to get there. It also shows several alternate skills in case the main skill can’t be traveled. Finally, the map shows all the skills that a student must achieve in order to accomplish a common core standard.

Kinds of Skills Included in Learning Maps:

  • Tested Subject-Specific Skills. These skills include things like knowing a vocabulary word or being able to solve a multiplication problem.
  • Related Precursor Academic Skills. These are the underlying skills necessary to master the tested skill. For example, to solve a multiplication problem, a student first needs to understand what numbers are, be able to order numbers, etc. For each grade-level skill that is tested, there are numerous precursor skills.
  • Communication Skills. These are skills that allow students to communicate their answers. Communication skills are not limited to speech, but include a variety of things like pointing or nodding.
  • Attention Skills. Before a student can show knowledge of a particular subject, the student must first be able to focus on the task or item presented.

By mapping these and other types of skills, learning maps allow students to show what they do know rather than simply cataloging what they don’t know.

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What does a Learning Map look like?

Think of a learning map like a common road map. Although students may share the same destination, they all begin their journeys from different starting points on the map. For parents and educators who hope to guide students to their destination, that road map provides a wealth of information. First, it shows where a student is starting. It also shows the main route, which is the shortest, most direct way to get there. However, a good road map does more than show a single route. It also shows several alternate routes in case the main route can’t be traveled. Finally, the map shows all the places students must travel through to get to their destination.

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Test Features

The Dynamic Learning Maps™ Alternate Assessment System uses items and tasks that are embedded in day-to-day instruction. As these embedded items and tasks are given to a student, the student’s learning is mapped throughout the year. Because of this, testing and teaching happen at the same time. This gives teachers the opportunity to see what students know during the year when teachers still have time to change instruction to better support student learning.  The DLM™ system will be created to be accessible for students with a variety of disabilities including significant cognitive disabilities, students who are deaf or hard of hearing, students who are blind or have low vision, and those who have neuromuscular, orthopedic, or other motor disabilities. Tests will be flexible enough to accept a variety of responses, such as:

  • Keyboard-entered responses
  • Drag-and-drop responses that use the mouse to sort or label
  • Responses using touch-screen technology (when available)

The system will also be compatible with a variety of assistive technologies commonly used by students. It will also be flexible enough to allow for varying levels of teacher assistance.

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Timeline and Theory of Action